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News from the Votemaster            

Note: Due to travel and lack of news, postings will continue to be sporadic until September when things should pick up.

Barnes Wins Georgia Gubernatorial Nomination; Runoff for the GOP     Permalink

In yesterday's primary election in Georgia, former governor Roy Barnes (D) easily bested half a dozen opponents to get the Democrat nomination to run for the open governor's seat. On the Republican side, the result was indecisive, with tea party favorite, Karen Handel, and former congressman Nathan Deal coming in first and second, respectively. Neither of them got 50% of the vote in a multiway primary so they will face off in a runoff in three weeks. The winner will take on Barnes in November. This race is important because Georgia is a large and growing state and both houses of the state legislature are dominated by Republicans. If Handel or Deal win in November, the legislature will be free to gerrymander congressional districts to its heart's content (something it already has a history of doing). If Barnes wins, he will veto any such plans and the new districts will have to be drawn in a way that favors neither party.

Manchin to Run for Byrd's Seat in 2010     Permalink

While the U.S. Congress takes forever to do anything, sometimes the states can move a lot faster. In particular, West Virginia law was ambiguous about when the special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd would be held, so quick like a bunny, the West Virginia legislature passed a bill saying that the special election would be held in Nov. 2010 for the remaining two years of Byrd's term. It was then signed by Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who had the grace to wait one day until announcing that he is running for the seat himself. Manchin's appointee to the seat until November, Carte Goodwin, a former aide to the governor and the youngest member of the Senate, is not expected to run himself, giving Manchin a clear shot at the Democratic nomination.

For the Republicans, the situation is murkier. They have only one plausible candidate: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the daughter of three-term former West Virginia governor Arch Moore (R). Capito has not yet announced if she is running, although the law that set up the special election this year also said that people (read: Capito) could run in a special election and in a regular election (e.g., the House) at the same time. Her problem is that although West Virginia has voted Republican in the past three presidential elections, at the state level it is fairly Democratic and Manchin has an 80% approval rating. Running against a popular sitting governor and losing would certainly hurt her reputation for future runs at higher office, so she might prefer to run for governor in 2012. But there will be tremendous pressure on her to run for the Senate now because if she declines, Manchin will win in a landslide.

Update. Capito will not run for the Senate. Presumably she estimated her chances of winning against the popular Manchin as too small. She might well run for her father's old job as governor in 2012 though.

GOP Concedes It Won't Take Over the Senate in 2010     Permalink

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the NRSC, has admitted that the Republicans are unlikely to capture the Senate in 2010, despite an expected big wave in its favor. The first 6 or 7 seats are potentially doable (although far-right candidates in Nevada, Kentucky, and possibly Colorado) could strongly reduce that number, as could losses in Ohio and Missouri. But the next 3 or 4 seats require victories in deep blue states like California and Wisconsin. Despite initial polling that shows close races in these states, the last time Californians elected a Republican to the senate was Pete Wilson in 1984, for example.

Also problematic is Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is running as an independent and has refused to state who he would caucus with. A recent poll shows that 55% of the people planning to vote for him want to see him caucus with the Democrats and only 22% want him to caucus with the Republicans. Given that Crist is leading Republican Marco Rubio in most polls, and miles ahead of hapless Democrat, Kendrick Meek (who is facing a bizarre primary challenge from a loose cannon billionaire, Jeff Greene), if Crist wins the general election and caucuses with the Democrats, that is effectively a pickup for the Democrats since the incumbent is a Republican.

The House is a different story. With 39 pickups and no losses, the Republicans could capture the House, but unlike 1994, there are relatively few open seats this time, so it will be a steep hill to climb, but not inconceivable, like the Senate.

How to Read a Political Poll     Permalink

Craig Crawford has put together an amusing video about how to interpret political polls. It's more for beginners than for experienced poll watchers, but still worth a few minutes. For more advanced observers, Nate Silver has a good piece on robopolling. In particular, he criticizes Rasmussen's methodology, which consists of calling only between 5 P.M. and 9 P.M. on weekdays, polling whoever answers the phone, and not calling back if no one answers, and not calling cellphones. All these factors lead to Rasmussen polling a fairly small sample of the voting population. In principle, these problems can be corrected by appropriate demographic weighting, but Rasmussen has been repeatedly criticized for having a model that is too slanted towards the Republicans. His move to Fox News did little to correct this problem. Unfortunately, as a consequence of Rasmussen's robopolling, not calling back, and surveying whoever answers the phone (possibly a teenager), his polls are cheap and represent a large fraction of the total polling, which may bias the results. It is our fervent hope that other robopollsters, who are dealing with these problems (e.g., SurveyUSA is starting to call cellphones), increase their frequency after Labor Day.

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